Facebook researchers have found in a recent study that many users of the social-networking site click on sites showing political views different from their own. Around a fifth of Facebook users were found having friends who had an ideological affiliation to an opposing party. “While partisans tend to maintain relationships with like-minded contacts … on average more than 20 percent of an individual’s Facebook friends who report an ideological affiliation are from the opposing party, leaving substantial room for exposure to opposing viewpoints”, said the Facebook researchers.
Facebook allowed its researchers to look into what they liked to research and come up with their findings. After reviewing the results, Facebook sent them for publication in Science. The journal selected an anonymous panel of scholars unaffiliated with Facebook.
The study has significant implications for how preferences are shaped by social media and the political debate. The researchers said that they wanted to figure out the extent to which people like to share ideologically diverse news content. And the extent to which people come across them and read it in social media.
It was learnt that Facebook users are likely to have friends with different views in political matters than they do. The study showed that as much as 23% of a user’s friends are of an opposing political affiliation. Also, as much as 29% of the news in a user’s feed is about different political viewpoints.
Publishers were also provided with the previous News Feed algorithm and it proved to be beneficial for them in their endeavor to improve their abilities to leverage the social networking site.
Experts have said that the findings must not be trivialized and show the importance of “continued vigilance”.